~Eddard | The Proposal~

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The king stood still as Ned walked to retrieve the lantern that sat on the wall to the right of them. Lord Eddard had ordered that more torches be brought down to the crypts in anticipation of the king's arrival. Ned knew the man who was practically his brother more than the man knew himself. Ned had welcomed Robert's love and dedication to his deceased sister and overall appreciated that Robert cared still after all of this time. He did not, however, know the king. He knew and related to the boy that he grew up in the Eyrie with. Ned knew the Robert that led a rebellion and fought for his sister's honor even after her last breath was passed. The king was an entirely different man. Fatter and more foul, he had become a hardened man with more seriousness about him. This was a lot to say about King Robert, since the man was jovial most of the time, but it was true nevertheless. Robert's face held deeper creases that expressed and displayed his worries to the world. The carefree nature that had left the king did not take his bellowing laughter with it. He laughed deeply at his own jokes that he told along their walk to Lyanna's grave. He spoke of her valiantly yet Ned paid little attention to his words.

The hallways were blackened by shadows and even though Ned had men bring down torches, the most of the light was from that of Ned's small lantern. Their own shadows were casted upon the walls and they walked among the dead all the way to the last Stark that had entered the spirit world prematurely. They passed Ned's ancestors and soulless and stony eyes seemed to follow them down the cavernous tunnels that winded seemingly to no end.

Finally, the two men came to a halt in front of the woman they both loved dearly. Robert let out a long breath that seemed to have been held for the passed nine years. It seemed that if he was more than a league away from the dead Stark, he could not breathe properly.

"Did you have to bury her in a place like this?" Robert lifted a hand to touch the stony face of Lyanna Stark. "She should be somewhere on a hill with the sun behind her and the rain to wash her clean."

"She was my sister." Ned spoke, "And you were not there. She wanted to be placed by father and Brandon." Ned brought the lantern forward and illuminated her statue even more so as to make her features more visible.

"It looks nothing like her, she was more beautiful than this." Robert stared up, longingly, and allowed his hand to trace the curve of her face. "Someone took her away from me and every whore in the world and all the seven kingdoms aren't enough to fill the hole she left behind."

Ned could see his dear friend's eyes glaze over with sadness at seeing Lyanna's grave again. Seeing her was a double edged blade that cut deep. "Tell me about Jon."

Both men breathed out a sigh and Robert briskly walked away from the grave and walked towards the exit of the crypts. Ned stood for a moment and soon followed after the big man.

"Aye, a fever took him. It was so quick, Ned. One moment he and I were filling our bellies with wine and the next..." Robert trailed off and shook his head, cutting straight to the point, "Gods, Ned. I miss that man. Now I need a new hand, what say you?"

At those words, Lord Eddard dropped to his knee and bowed. Ned knew why Robert came so far into the North. He knew it wasn't just because he missed his old friend. "You honor me, your grace." Ned spoke, keeping his head bowed.

"Seven hells Ned! Enough with the titles, we are more to each other than that." The king turned and began walking once more with Ned following close behind. "And I, by no means, amd trying to honor you. I simply want you to run my kingdom for me while I hunt, drink, and wench myself to an early grave. What is that old saying again? Eh, what was it? The King eats and the Hand takes the shit." A deep bellied, hoarse, thick laugh erupted from the mans chest and echoed throughout the crypts. The sound was loud enough to wake the dead that surrounded them and Ned could swear he felt his brother's eyes roll.

Ned held a stoic face like the statues and Robert grimaced at him. The two men conversed and walked farther to the entrance. Robert took Lord Stark by surprise and proposed Prince Joffrey and Lady Sansa's betrothal, which made Ned drop to his knees again. While his brain spun and whirled, he knew he'd need a night to process everything. He already knew what his wife would say about all the proposals and he dreaded leaving his home.

Robert granted him more time to think about his upcoming responsibilities, which he was extremely thankful for. "How is the girl? She seemed very close with your bastard earlier when I saw her."

"Aye, they have grown very fond of each other over the years. From what I am aware of, she is of good health. She has grown into a desirable young lady and is one of my most trusted advisors."

"Advisors?" Robert chortled in disbelief, "She is but a girl."

"That she is, but she is wiser than any man I have met way beyond her years. I would trust no better person to keep my trust." Ned informed.

"She gets that from her father." the king belted out a laugh again. This time, Ned cracked a loose grin as they finally ventured out of the crypts and into the courtyard of his home.

It had grown dimmer out and people were bustling about, carrying things in their arms and to the great hall. Lord Stark felt at ease when he looked upon the darkened walls of Winterfell. He looked at his people that had smiles on their faces as they converse with each other. He looked at the young direwolves playfully fighting over large boar and deer bones, their excited yelps reverberated throughout the yard and brought smiles to people's faces. Overall, he looked upon his home with a content smile that expressed his feelings about the place.

Ned was broken away from his thoughts when Robert grabbed his arm and spoke, "I want you to bring the girl with you when we ride south." Ned's mouth opened to speak, but he could not grasp the words to form his answer right away. "Your grace, Winterfell is her home. She won't agree to come so easily. Especially if she would be asked to leave anything behind."

"Aye, she's grown up with the Starks. She broke bread with the Starks and she even fell in love with a Stark. I suspect she'll have the temperament of a Stark as well, but she will learn to love the south just like your daughter will. And just like you will, Ned."

And with that, the king walked away and into the castle. Ned stood behind and watched the man waddle away. His mind would not bring him any ease as he thought of leaving his home forever. Having everyone he loved in one place was so peaceful and reassuring. Knowing that soon it would be over and buried with his past gave him chills the cold of the north never could. At the far side of the yard, where the wolves were, Rayne emerged from the castle with Arya beside her. The two girls watched their direwolf pups with large grins on their faces accompanied by giggles. Ned looked at the two beautiful girls that he raised and couldn't help but smile sadly. He knew this would be one of the last times they would be so happy in a long time.

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